Netflix Releases Live Action Fullmetal Alchemist

Jessica Townsend

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Director, Fumihiko Sori, takes the long lasting Fullmetal Alchemist manga/anime to the big screen. Condensing twenty seven volumes into a two hour movie proved to be difficult in terms of understanding the plot, but it is ultimately well.

Fullmetal Alchemist follows the story of two young brothers: Edward (Ryosuke Yamada) and Alphonse (Atom Mizuishi) Elric, who try to use alchemy to bring their mother back to life. After it goes terribly wrong, Ed loses an arm and a leg; Al loses his entire body, and his soul becomes attached to a suit of armor. Now they are on a quest to find the Philosophers Stone in order to fix their bodies.

The first thing one notices in this film is the remarkable CGI. The movie has lots of fight scenes that contain buildings and roads being twisted and torn apart, as well as magical beasts that are beautifully animated. Al’s armor was CGI as well, “Not only does Al’s armored body look every inch like the animated Al, but the effects are good enough that there were several times that I forgot we were dealing with CGI and really looked at that suit as the wounded and disembodied Al. (Themarysue).” adds that “It’s probably the best CGI of any live-action anime adaptation that Japan has released yet.”

The scenery is just as gorgeous as the CGI. There is a repeated clip of a train going across a green landscape that sets up a fantasy feeling. To add to this feeling, there are tall, old-fashioned buildings that Ed leaps across in his first fight scene.

Aesthetic beauty aside, the movie may be confusing to those who are not already familiar with the Fullmetal Alchemist universe. It appears that the creators tried to get all the major plot points in the film, but because of this, it is somewhat rushed. There is also less time for character development, which takes away from the emotional appeal. Because of the fast pace, you really have to pay attention to know what is going on. It covers philosophical themes regarding the value of a human life, a government conspiracy, the seven deadly sins humanized as antagonists, and a fictional version of alchemy where one person can use it to mutate an entire town. Screen International sums this up as “There’s plenty to work with, but it rushes between emotional speeches and showdowns.”

The actors may not seem award-worthy, but they definitely did their job right. Visually and personality-wise, the characters are just like they were in the anime. Their reactions are slightly exaggerated but given the fantasy mood, it fits in well. Another positive: they got Japanese actors! It may seem like that would be a given, but whitewashing is a serious issue in the film industry.

Despite the semi-chaotic pace and storytelling, it is an overall entertaining flick and anyone interested in sci-fi, fantasy, or adventure should check it out. “While it will never have the emotional through line granted by the extra time for development in the original series, the films ending does have its intended effect to establish Edward as a good person who won’t stoop to the lowest of the low in order to gain what he wants. And that’s the basic message of the original series (” The original manga was written and illustrated by Hiromu Arakawa. The movie became available on Netflix on February 19, 2018.